December 1, 2009
Addressing a Complaint
Ah, what fun this is going to be. Who
doesnt wake up in the morning and say to himself, "What a great day to think
about all the things that are wrong with [insert your business or job here]"?
Well, maybe that would be a good way to get the juices flowing. But the difficult
task of actually correcting a legitimate problem can be daunting.
A few months ago, I took over as editor-in-chief of the
SoundStage! Network. Ive been with the organization for 11 years and, along with
Doug Schneider and Marc Mickelson (no longer with SS!N), have helped guide the development
and content of our family of websites. But last summer, the change in my role prompted me
to take up the challenge of casting a critical eye on what information we present, how
and where we present it, even when we present it. There was no better gut
check than to look at our network through the eyes of those most critical of us. It was
eye-opening, to say the least.
The source of perhaps the hardest-hitting complaint
wasnt some anonymous Internet lurker, lobbing e-mailed bombs at us from some far-off
computer, but someone much closer to home: my mom, over lunch.
Mom: Jeff, I just cant find the CES coverage.
Me: Its where its always been, Mom.
Mom: Which website?
Me: Its on SoundStage! AV, same as always.
Mom: I never go to that website. Can you send me the link?
Me: Sure thing.
Mom wasnt the first person to complain about not
being able to find our event coverage or navigate our websites, but suddenly it was plain
to me that she needed to be the last. I mean, shes my mother -- if she, an
average Internet user, cant find what shes looking for several times a year, every
year . . . well, Houston, we have a problem.
So, one night last August, publisher Doug Schneider and I
talked for two hours about it. We brainstormed, asked tough questions, put everything on
the table. I was talking to the right guy: Doug, and Karen Fanas, our art director, are
the creative forces behind the nutsnbolts of the SoundStage! Network websites.
Together, theyve worked to build the worlds only cohesive network of
related websites covering the specialty-audio industry. As our slogan states, weve
been Live since 95 -- well celebrate our 15th anniversary in 2010.
Weve certainly got a lot of there there, but to be improved, it all needed to
be tied together better.
So it was with my everymans perspective, along with
Dougs build-a-better-website mentality and Karens keen eye for visual design,
that we came to some hard conclusions. The first was that SoundStage! AV
wasnt really working the way wed envisioned it. Among our network of URLs it
was relatively obscure, and didnt generate the "supersite" enthusiasm
wed envisaged when we created it. Worse, SSAV contained some of our most
important content -- including all of our event coverage. If readers couldnt find
our most important content, then, obviously, something needed to be fixed. So the decision
was made to shut down SoundStage! AV and move its content to somewhere that made
more sense -- a new website that would be more user-friendly, more intuitively easy to
navigate, and would give people a real reason to visit often.
That somewhere is the brand-new SoundStage! Network
site, at www.SoundStageNetwork.com.
Far more thought and experimentation went into the development of this site than I can
detail here, but several critical points are worth noting. First, the event coverage we
produce is a network-wide effort; writers from all of our sites participate, and the
coverage we provide -- of the Consumer Electronics Show, the CEDIA Expo, the High End in
Germany, and the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest -- is designed to be relevant and interesting
to the readers of all of our sites. So it made sense to have that coverage hosted
not on a site with scant ties to the other URLs, but on an overarching network website,
essentially making it a part of all the other SoundStage! Network sites: SoundStage!,
Ultra Audio, GoodSound!, Home Theater & Sound, and SoundStage!
V. So from now on, youll find all of our event coverage at www.SoundStageNetwork.com.
This brings up another suggestion weve heard from
more than one person: Find a way to make the content on all of your sites easier to find
-- maybe even put it all in one place. Well, SoundStage! Network incorporates that
suggestion too: each month, a synopsis of each sites content will appear on the SoundStage!
Network homepage. Beginning right now, from that single URL, youll be able to
directly click through to virtually all of our content. That one bookmark will be all you
need -- if you follow all the links, you wont miss a thing. Youll also find
other resources were producing for SoundStage! Network, such as speaker and
electronic measurements, archived equipment reviews, continually updated audio/video news,
And next month on SoundStage! Network well
present something else brand-new, and thus address another complaint, this one about a
gaping hole in our coverage: a year-end buying guide. Our annual Equipment Buying Guide
will debut December 1. Ill talk more about it next month; right now, suffice it to
say that it will be way cool -- and, I hope, something youll use often.
And Mom? Please go to www.SoundStageNetwork.com.
There youll see a tab labeled "Event Coverage." Move your cursor over that
tab, then click on the event whose coverage you want to read. Itll take you there
directly. Its easy. Finally.
. . . Jeff Fritz